Sebastian Aho (10-4-14)
Teuvo Teravainen (0-14-14)
Lucas Wallmark (5-6-11)
Warren Foegele (4-6-10)
Nino Niederreiter (2-8-10)
December felt like a complete season all on its own. The month had it all: new records, laughs, a loss to the Rangers at MSG, highlight reel goals, Canes playing complete 60-minute games and terrible chokes. Really, there was nearly a moment in every single Canes game that month that warranted extended talk or playback.
The month started off on a low-note with a 2-0 shutout loss at TD Garden on Dec. 3. The Canes have floundered the past couple of seasons against the Bruins, never seeming able to topple the B’s.
Maybe that’s why then, the Canes were ready to try something a bit tricky. Late in the second period, Jaccob Slavin tossed a backhander towards Jaroslav Halak only for the puck to instead go through the side of the net and into the goal. It was called back pretty quickly.
In all seriousness, the Canes weren’t trying to pull off a little black magic and the goal wasn’t ever going to count, but really how does that even happen?
The Canes followed up the disheartening loss by stringing together one of their best stretches of the season, starting with a 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks back home at PNC Arena on Dec. 5. However, what was probably remembered the most from that game was the clock to Mrazek by Joe Thornton that caught the fanbase’s ire.
To be fair, Mrazek did take a huge slash at him, chased him down behind the net and dropped like a weight when hit, but he got enough of an earful from his teammates come the next practice for it.
Next on the itinerary was the Dec. 7 arrival of the Minnesota Wild. With the Wild in complete disarray at the time, this was a must-win type of game and the Canes, i.e. Sebastian Aho, delivered. Aho had a hat-trick with goals three different ways, scoring a power play, shorthanded and 5v5 goal as well as registering two assists for a five-point night as the team ran away with a 6-2 win.
Following the strong little home stand, the Canes were faced with a daunting five-game, west coast road trip, the longest of the season.
The team made its first stop on Dec. 10 at Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, where Carolina blasted the Oilers out of the water by a score of 6-3. Adding insult to injury, the sixth goal knocked all remaining fight out of Edmonton as Dougie Hamilton scored from a shot he just cranked from center ice.
Next up was the Dec. 12 match against the Vancouver Canucks who actually proved to be one of the toughest opponents, more so actually due to the amazing game Jacob Markstrom put on. Honestly, both goaltenders, Markstrom and Mrazek deserve kudos for the hard fought games, but Markstrom was insane.
The game seemed to be headed for a rare 0-0 shootout, but the Canucks snatched the game away in OT on a stroke of bad luck as the puck hit a discarded stick in front of Carolina’s net, leaving it dead in the slot for Vancouver’s elite center, Elias Petersson, to put the game away.
The Canes must have had such a fire in them from playing such a hard game only to be robbed by a hot goaltender that they burned up Calgary the very next game on Dec. 14 to the tune of a 4-0 shutout. Warren Foegele pulled off a double-shorty alongside the team’s perfect 5-for-5 penalty kill.
In a much earned break, the Canes spent the next two nights in the breathtaking mountains of Banff taking in the beautiful sights and even doing a bit of curling.
"Part of our identity is caring for each other.”https://t.co/06tvi5VJsQ— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 17, 2019
After the relaxation, the Hurricanes moved further into Canada, arriving in Winnipeg on Dec. 17 for their final Western Canadian match. Maybe the team should spend more time in places like Banff, because the Canes somehow cranked up their compete level in the 6-3 win over the Jets. Svechnikov embarrassed yet another team, pulling off the Svech v2. against Hellebyuk and Aho and Staal each had a pair of goals.
The final game on the road trip was against the red-hot Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 19. It was a back and forth, but scoreless effort by both sides going into the third, but it was Gabriel Landeskogg that broke the stalemate early on.
It was looking like Carolina was going to be stymied by another hot goaltender until Svechnikov notched the equalizer with under three to go, followed by Slavin stealing the lead a little over a minute later and Aho sealing it away with the empty-netter.
It was one of the best games of the season and highlighted the never quitting attitude that Brind’Amour has harped on as the team’s identity.
The road trip ended up being the Hurricanes’ best in the franchise history for a five-game trip taking away 9 of the 10 total points up for grabs.
However, the home reception on Dec. 21 from the tremendous road effort was far from ideal. Despite putting up 44 shots, the Canes managed to only put two past Panthers rookie netminder Chris Driedger and found themselves the victim to four in their own net.
It was a disappointing effort, but wasn’t detrimental on its own, having earned at least a bad game after a long stretch of success.
Unfortunately, the slide continued after they went north to face the Leafs on Dec. 23 and although both sides looked terrible, the Canes completely unraveled to the Leafs in spite of what looked like a solid lead.
Leading 6-4 halfway through the third, keeping in mind they had been down 3-0 and scored 5 unanswered, the Canes just stopped playing. Toronto in response notched three goals in just 59 seconds on their way to an 8-6 victory.
The holiday break came with a sour taste for the Hurricanes to sit with and it wouldn’t alleviate the first game back either as the Rangers at MSG were up next on Dec. 27. They lost that one, obviously, 5-3.
With all the month’s hard work seemingly about to amount to naught, the Canes managed to bunker down and stem the bleeding in a short homestand.
First up, were the Washington Capitals who arrived in Raleigh the very next day, Dec. 28 for a high-powered offensive match that saw the Canes edge them out with a 6-4 win.
Finally to end off 2019, Carolina hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 31, where they put together a solid team game and capped off the month and year in high spirits, with a 3-1 victory.
In December, the Hurricanes started with a low, went guns-a-blazing through the month, hit a bad rut, but managed to end back in control in the driver’s seat in an all around strong month led by a few big contributors and a strong goaltending tandem.